Politics House Republicans file lawsuit over metal detector fines
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Two House Republicans Monday filed a federal lawsuit against the House sergeant-at-arms and chief administrative officer over thousands of dollars in fines imposed due to violations of the chamber's metal detector rules.
GOP Reps. Louie Gohmert of Texas and Andrew Clyde of Georgia filed the suit in federal district court in Washington, D.C., through their attorney, Ken Cuccinelli, a former Virginia attorney general and Trump administration official.
The lawsuit represents the most direct challenge yet to a set of security measures put in place by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic leadership after the Jan. 6 Capitol riots, when supporters of then-President Donald Trump stormed the building in an ultimately futile attempt to overturn counting of electoral votes that delivered the presidency to Joe Biden.
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In the lawsuit, Gohmert and Clyde argue Sergeant-at-Arms William Walker and Chief Administrative Officer Catherine Szpindor violated the 27th Amendment of the Constitution, which states, “No law varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.”
The lawmakers argue that imposing and collecting fines reduces a member’s salary during his or her term. They also argue that it violates a constitutional provision saying lawmakers cannot be arrested while performing their congressional duties.
Gohmert and Clyde cite Article I, Sections 5: “Each House … may punish its members for disorderly behavior.” Furthermore, Article I, Section 6 states, “[Representatives] shall in all cases, except treason felony and breach of the peace, be privileged from arrest during their attendance at their respective Houses and in going to and returning from the same.”
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Additionally, the Republican lawmakers noted several instances in which GOP members missed votes as a result of being held up at the metal detectors, as opposed to Democratic lawmakers who were allowed to walk onto the floor to vote after setting off the scanners without later punishment.
Gohmert was, and Clyde received $15,000 in fines, by the House Sergeant-at-Arms Timothy Blodgett last month for “failure to complete a security screening” before entering the House chamber.
Both attempted to appeal the fines at the House Ethics Committee back in March, but a majority of the committee “did not agree to the appeal,” Chairman Ted Deutch, a Florida Democrat, and ranking member Jackie Walorski, an Indiana Republican, said in a joint statement.
Gohmert alleged he previously walked through the scanners to enter the floor before he later walked out of the chamber into the Speaker's Lobby, a hallway room adjacent to the floor, to go to the restroom. He returned to the floor through the Speaker’s Lobby, where there were no metal detectors at the time.
GOP Reps. Louie Gohmert and Andrew Clyde Sue Over Fines for Skirting Capitol Metal Detectors
A pair of GOP lawmakers who were fined for refusing to use metal detectors installed at the Capitol in the wake of the Jan. 6 insurrection filed a lawsuit on Monday, claiming the penalty was unconstitutional and “a means of harassing” House Republicans. In the lawsuit filed in D.C. District Court, Reps. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) and Andrew Cyle (R-GA) allege the additional security screenings to enter the House chamber—and the subsequent fines for those who refuse to comply—have targeted “democratically-elected representatives who are members of the opposition party in the House of Representatives.
“There was no notice of a change in the requirement that once all the requirements were met and the House floor entered, that I would have to be wanded upon returning from the restroom mere feet from the Speaker’s Lobby,” Gohmert told the Washington Examiner. “The fact is, I went through the metal detector properly.”
Gohmert was fined a day after the House voted to impose the financial penalties on lawmakers who refused to comply with the metal detector rules.
Republicans, calling it “unconstitutional,” and many simply walked around the metal detectors until the speaker next to the scanner to block lawmakers from avoiding the security measure. The House later adopted a new measure, pushed by the speaker, in early February to fine lawmakers who refused to comply with the security screening.
Six House lawmakers, five Republicans and one Democrat, have been slapped with metal detector fines since the rule was adopted. Pelosi mandated a security check overseen by U.S. Capitol Police officers at each entrance of the chamber.
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Under the rule, House members are fined $5,000 for the first violation and $10,000 for any subsequent penalty.
Along with Gohmert and Clyde, other lawmakers previously hit with fines by the metal detector rule are GOP Reps. Lloyd Smucker of Pennsylvania, Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, Hal Rogers of Kentucky, as well as Rep. Jim Clyburn, Democrat of South Carolina and the House majority whip.
Unlike Clyde and Gohmert before them, Rogers and Clyburntheir fines to the Ethics Committee panel last month, which is composed of five Republicans and five Democrats. Foxx and Smucker have yet to confirm that they will appeal their fines.
Aof Pelosi walking to the House floor on Feb. 4, posted by Politico, prompted Republicans to accuse the speaker of bypassing the metal detectors to the floor. A Pelosi spokesman denied the charge, saying she went through security protocols that day by an officer using a hand wand device.
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